Mmmmm, vanilla. Good extract can be expensive, so three years ago, I began making my own. And I haven’t looked back since.
Homemade vanilla extract requires two ingredients – vanilla beans and alcohol – plus the storage bottles. Be sure to use high quality beans, so you end up with high quality extract. Beans should be flexible, soft, and plump with moisture. I prefer Madagascar beans, which are rich and creamy. You will also need a flavorless alcohol – I use a middle shelf vodka (which I hide in the pantry so my husband doesn’t use it). And last of all, be sure to use dark bottles, as light is not good for the storage of your extract.
I have a rotation of six (yes, six!) bottles, that way I never run out. When you empty one bottle, simply add another bean or two (depending on bottle size) and top off with vodka. No need to remove the previously used bean. On the back of each bottle I write the date I have refreshed it, as it will be ready to use after 2 months time. When the bottle is too crowded with beans, I take the beans out and gently pat them dry. Then I scrape out any seeds left inside, and add the seeds and dry pods to a container of plain white sugar. This creates vanilla sugar, which is just wonderful to have around (on top of grilled peaches, on cinnamon toast, with baked apples, in coffee … the possibilities are endless).
Vanilla extract is so simple to make, once you start, you’ll wonder why you haven’t been doing this all along!
Vodka, such as Smirnoff
Dark bottles for storage
Split vanilla beans in half lengthwise, leaving the very top and bottom in tact. Use about two beans per 4 ounce bottle, up to five beans per 8 ounce bottle. Bend or slice beans in half, if needed, and place in bottle. Use a funnel and fill bottle with vodka, covering beans. Store in a cool, dark place for two months. Shake daily, if you want (I rarely do this), or at least once a week. After two months, use as needed. Store in a cool, dry place.